There’s a problem that comes with aiming HIGH and dreaming BIG. Sometimes you don’t make it.
I know the rejection you can feel when you apply to 10 MFA programs, like the woman in Episode 204 of Season Two of Big Magic, who was refused from all of them.
When I graduated from Colgate I was accepted to the Art Institute of Chicago for a year interim program that would lead into my MFA. I was stoked: great school, amazing city. But when I went to Chicago to look for apartments I got scared. I started to understand the amount of debt I would be in. And I decided to wait a year or two and reapply. I never got into an MFA program again.
I know the feeling of failure that comes with applying to a group show and being rejected.
I also know the feeling of putting your art on social media only to hear crickets: no response, no sales, and sometimes even unwanted feedback.
There’s a problem here. And it’s not the rejections or “failures.” It’s the giving up.
Have you considered what you would achieve IF you didn’t dream big? You read that correctly: if you did NOT dream big…what would you achieve?
Art accountability for January. Tracking the days I make art helps me make more art. Do you track when you create? It’s ONE way for me to build that scaffold…
Think about it: if you keep your expectations of your life and art small, you can achieve them. And there is a lovely feeling of reward when we can tick those boxes. And yet: would you be more skillful, more visible on social media, or making more money if you aimed higher and didn’t achieve that goal?
I want to emphasize this point: aiming high is your friend. It’s an ally that helps you strive to be your best artist self. It’s your friend until you dismiss your actual achievements and growth because you didn’t reach the larger goal. Many of you focus instead on the fact you didn’t reach that goal, which of course equates to failure, or even worse: that YOU are a failure.
Think of a time in your art life where you felt like a failure. You aimed high, but didn’t quite make it. Now ask yourself: how much closer were you to that goal as compared to before you set that big goal? How much did your work grow? What did you learn? And how did it set you up for your future work (the art you create now)?
Do you still need that tick box for small steps of success to keep going? Then aim high and build a scaffold to get there. What is your goal? And what are 10 tasks or steps you can take to lead you there?
I felt so confused by my acceptance and then rejection from multiple MFA programs. Did my art get worse? Was I never any good to start? There is still part of me that would enjoy being part of an MFA program. My linear, A type likes the idea of the credential as some kind of proof of artistic success. And yet, I know I have more to give to my art today because of my choice to move away from the USA and discover a region of the world I would never know otherwise. My work is stronger because I’ve traveled, I’ve explored, and I choose to still make art. This would have never happened had I focused solely on an MFA as my measure of success.
Rejection is hard. So is failure. It’s important to honor your grief (yes grief) over the loss. Journal, have a ceremony of loss, or give yourself a day of Netflix, ice cream (mint chocolate chip), and pajamas. The real test is what you choose to do after. Do you hold onto your grief and stop making? Or do you build a new scaffold to your art?
Be Creatively Courageous: Tell me in the comments below two steps you can take this week that will take you closer to your big dream.